Robert Mitchell – The Glimpse
(Whirlwind Records WR4630. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘The feeling of learning to have ideas flow into a deliberately limited place’ is how pianist/composer Robert Mitchell characterises the appeal of the material on this, an album of solo left-hand jazz/classical piano. His motivation, however, is by no means solely artistic: he is about to celebrate, via a festival named ‘Leftitude’ (The Forge, Camden, 20/21 March), ‘all those who have performed/created in this way … whether from birth, injury, warfare etc.’ in order to ‘breed a positive future for the left hand [and] to inspire the creativity of composers and improvisers in this area’.
To be convinced of the need for this reassessment, one only has to look at the English-language adjectives derived from the Latin words for left (sinister) and right (dexterous); the consequences of this prejudice range, according to Mitchell, from ‘many being forced to change their writing hand’ to ‘witch-hunts and worse’. (I can personally confirm the seriousness of this issue, having been threatened, on my first day at school, as a natural left-hander, with having that hand tied behind my back if I continued to write with it – I now write with the pen gripped uncomfortably between the first two fingers of my right hand – and was, as a child, continually being berated for the ‘clumsiness’ that resulted from this unnecessary switch.)
Mitchell’s album is something of a revelation, including absorbing improvisations, compositions (by Federico Mompou and Fred Hersch) and a number of cogent Mitchell originals that intriguingly vindicate his stated aim: to exploit ‘different pathways, previously unseen possibilities, and a sensibility that uses the explicit and the implied in a fascinatingly different way’.
As a fellow left hander I applaud anyone who demonstrates the abilities that Mitchell does as one more piece of evidence of our outstanding skills. Not that I necessarily have any. I have the CD and it is marvelous. I am not sure that anyone approaching it without the benefit of the title or notes would realize it is solely one hand playing this music.
This album is great and a great review to boot. Not only is the left hand aspect amazing, but when one gets beyond that and just listens to the actual music and vibe, Robert is really telling some amazing stories, full of imagination. I can't stop listening.